Green Cross, Obama-to-be, and Business Solutions to the Crisis

December 3, 2008

December 3rd – Yesterday afternoon, in a state of near exhaustion from jetlag, adrenalin-driven enthusiasm, and over stimulation, I attended a side event sponsored by Green Cross International.  A word about this organization.  GCI is the cyber-child of Mikael Gorbachev.  While one generation will remember that name with clarity, the next on will likely never have heard it.  Mr. Gorbachev was the leader of the USSR who’s open and honest engagement with the West led ultimately to the dissolution of the communist state, and a re-instatement of all its member states into nationhood.  He was arguably one of the most courageous heroes of the 20th century, willing to radically change the paradigms of the world.

My friend Bill Becker spoke first.  Dr. Becker is a fellow Climate Project presenter and lead author of the Presidential Climate Action Plan, a program he and colleagues at Colorado University developed highlighting how the next president of the US could made a radical engagement of the solutions to the climate crisis in the first 100 days of office, without any congressional action at all.  He had been asked to highlight for the conference what President Obama is expected to do when he assumes office.

The next presenter was an Italian gentleman whose predisposition fairly well matched mine.  I found out subsequently that he was Guilietto Chiesa, MEP (Member of the EU Parliament).  His position was that the business community cannot really be relied upon to come up with a meaningful climate solution since its world of operation is precisely the paradigm that created the problem.  Speaking right after him was the founder and CEO of a business-consulting group whose position was the exact opposite!  This was one of the most interesting side events I had attended thus far.

As I dwelt upon this clash of points-of-view over the next several hours an image emerged in my mind.  This entire conference, with some 9,000 souls in attendance, is bound to have a myriad of different points of view.  Like the famous fable of the 5 blind men and the elephant, here we have 9,000 pairs of eyes and the mother-of-all-elephants.

We can only hope and work for truth to emerge and a path to a higher state for the planet be created by this discourse, rather than is descent into a massive exercise in blind-leading-blind.

Oh yes, and lest I forget to complete this vignette properly, beverages and snacks are apparently served by the hosts of these evening side events, and there are so many that the conference doesn’t really close for the day until about 9:30 or 10:00 when the last stragglers wander off home, and the cleaning and printing staff get to prepare for the next day’s excitement.

For the Earth – §

US Press Briefing – The Big Question

December 2, 2008

December 1st – This was the first of two press briefings I attended today.  I bluffed my way into the room.  Actually, I walked prepared to bluff if challenged, but was not challenged.  Having had to choose between status as an NGO observer and status as a member of the press, I chose the former (on advice) and so really am not supposed to attend press briefings.  But I won’t tell anyone if you won’t.

This ‘side event’ was a major reason for my attending this conference.  The world knows that the obstructionist Bush administration’s days are numbered (count down to January 20th proceeds apace).  What was not clear, until this briefing, was whether the old guard would yield gracefully to the new, or go out dragging the curtains down with them.  I am afraid the latter may be the case.

There were two representatives of the Bush team.  Dr. Harlan Watson and Depty Assistant Secretary of State for the Environment, Daniel Reisnyder (please don’t take off points for spelling!), a short man with a long title.  They were clearly not comfortable being there.  The tension in the room was palpable.  The skepticism with which anything they would say would be greated was clear.  But then there were those of us who were waiting for that signal.  Would they be spoilers again this year?

At this point my notes from Dr. Harlan’s presentation would be apt to show you…

“Talked about methane markets… a load of b.s.  Blah, blah blah.  Many words, nothing said… came off like reading the telephone book… everyone concentrating on carbon… there are other greenhouse gasses too… look what the US has done on these… ”

I didn’t know whether to revile this man or pity him.  I decided that I would try one of my questions on him.  I quickly composed the following semi-rhetorical question, but shortened it a bit when I asked it.

“You stated that ‘consensus is something that certainly the Bush Administration supported’.  I do not think this position is shared either by involved Americans or people around the world.  You also said that the US delegation would be making positive contributions here in Poznan.  Specifically, what positive contributions will you be making here?  That is, have you been instructed to make any new proposals or facilitation of any existing proposals or is your brief to be obstructionist to progress and consensus as has been your position in the past?”

His response was basically, technology funding and technology transfer activities would be the specific contributions this session.

All the questions might be characterized as incredulity in varying degrees.  Some wanted to know about the transition to the new Obama team and would that significantly alter the US stance.  His obfuscation here amounted to saying that the US congress would probably still impede progress since the individual interests of states was a problem too.  Well sure, if the guys at the top are pushing in that direction, and the Republican base has its way through special interests and lobbyists.

When asked about all the criticism that the US had come under, he acknowledged that criticism with a gesture of his arms and the statement, “You are right, we have come under criticism, and I can show you some of the scars.”  And well deserved scars they are at that.  The greedy self-interest of the outgoing administration deserves more than mere scars.  This is the future of life on earth they are trading for the sake of ‘accumulation of personal wealth’.